There is more to an effective writing practice than simply writing. In this episode, we’re breaking down the seven (plus one) things you want to do on a regular basis in order to grow as a writer and strengthen your works-in-progress, plus exploring how to fit them into your life in a way that works for YOU.

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Stephanie: (00:06)
Hello writers. Today we’re going to take a look at the various elements that make up a productive and effective writing practice and how to decide which to include at what points in your writing life. I want to say upfront that the list of activities I’m about to share with you might sound a bit daunting. For someone who only has a limited amount of time to dedicate to writing, it might even be a little discouraging, but I want you to take a deep breath and know that A, these things do not need to be done every day, and B, you’re most likely doing some, if not most of them already. When we talk about a writing practice, what we’re talking about is the intentional habit of writing and learning and developing your craft. Writing is not something that can be mastered, right? There’s always something more to learn or something new to try.

Stephanie: (01:02)
If we think of our writing life as a practice rather than a destination, we’re able to relax into the moment a bit, rather than rushing to get there. I often compare writing to exercise, even though there may be goals met along the way. It’s really a state of learning and growing more than a final destination. I’m gonna break down the different elements of an effective writing practice into two parts, the essential elements and the bonus elements. Then we’ll talk about how to make intentional decisions about which to include at any given time so that it’s not completely overwhelming. Let me say that again. You don’t have to do all of the things at once. , before we dive in, I want to invite you to ask your questions about your writing practice your craft or your specific project, and I’ll answer them here in a video.

Stephanie: (01:58)
Just drop your question in the comments here on YouTube or on the blog, or email me directly from hello I love to support writers with their specific concerns or challenges, and I’d be happy to do that for you. Okay. The essential elements of a writing practice, the non-negotiables are writing forward or producing new work revision, sharing your writing with others and intentional thinking about your story away from the computer. Let’s quickly take a look at these. One at a time. Writing forward or producing new work is pretty straightforward, right? If you aren’t doing this, you aren’t really writing, and I don’t think I need to say much more about this. Revision is something that should be done throughout the various stages of your project, all the way from the idea and planning stage through to the days before you’re ready to submit. Sharing your work with others is an essential because writing is a conversation, it’s communication, and without someone on the receiving side, there’s no conversation.

Stephanie: (03:06)
Whether we’re talking about asking for feedback or simply sharing it with a loved one, because you want to. Sharing your writing with others strengthens your spine, and it gives you the confidence to do it when the stakes are a little bit higher. These two reasons, communication and confidence, are why I believe this should be an essential part of your writing practice. The final essential is thinking intentionally about your story. When you’re away from the work, whether you’re driving in the shower or on a walk, spend a few minutes losing yourself in the story because you never know what ideas will pop up when you aren’t trying to force them onto the page. You might also find new clarity around a question that you’ve been grappling with. Plus, it’s super fun , so those are the essentials. So now let’s dive into the other elements of an effective writing practice.

Stephanie: (04:00)
This work can be built in however and whenever you have time, and chances are good that you’re already doing some of them. The first element is studying craft. At first glance, you might think I’m talking about reading a writing craft book, and certainly that is one way. Other ways include taking a class or listening to an author interview. My recommendation to all of my clients is that they choose one topic for study at a time. Now, this can be tricky, especially since there is so much good stuff out there to learn from, but choosing one topic, say, developing strong characters, it allows you to zero in on understanding and applying what you learn. The second bonus element is studying one or more mentor texts. In a future video, I’m gonna go into more detail about what a mentor text is and how to use it.

Stephanie: (04:56)
To briefly explain, a mentor text is a book or whatever form you’re writing that’s similar in genre structure and possibly topic to yours. You’re looking for different moves that the writer made studying how they were able to engage the reader effectively. This isn’t reading for fun. This is breaking apart the engine and looking at how it was put together. The final element I want to talk about today is craft practice. This happens, of course, while you’re writing forward, but it’s also something that can happen in isolation on the side of your work in progress. Sometimes this can happen in tandem with studying craft if the book or class provides activities or prompts, but you can also do it on your own based on what you wanna improve. So let’s say you want to improve your ability to describe settings or scenery. You can take a notebook and sit anywhere, even at your kitchen table and describe everything you see in as much detail as possible.

Stephanie: (05:59)
Doing this activity several times can’t help but strengthen your descriptive muscles. I wanna touch on one more thing, and that’s journaling. Many writers journal and many people who don’t call themselves writers journal. Some writers don’t journal, right? Journaling can take many forms that I’m not gonna take the time to describe here, but I usually think of journaling as being more about self-development and exploration than a writing practice. But that said, you may choose to use journaling to explore your thinking about your story, and that’s completely appropriate and valuable. If it works for you. If you do this, find a way to build it into your writing practice, but please don’t let it substitute itself for writing forward on work you eventually want to share with others. Now, aside from journaling, I’ve just listed seven different activities that can and should be part of every writer’s lifelong practice of writing.

Stephanie: (06:57)
I mean, that’s a lot, right? So let’s take a deep breath and think about how to fit them all in. First of all, thinking about the project away from the computer can happen any time, so we can remove that from the list of things to squeeze into your writing sessions. We can also remove sharing your writing because that’ll also have an outside of a writing session, so now we’re down to five. That’s a little better. As you know, if you’ve ever heard me talk before, I don’t care if you write every day. I think that works for some of us and it doesn’t work for others of us. I have other videos that talk about where writing falls in your priorities and how to schedule writing sessions, so I won’t spend too much time on that here. But once you have a schedule of writing sessions that you know works for you, even if it’s different from week to week, you can break that time down and look at how and where to fit in writing forward revision, studying craft, practicing craft, and studying mentor text.

Stephanie: (07:59)
As I’ve said before, it’s my strong suggestion that you plan each writing session in advance so that when you sit down, you know what you’re going to work on, which helps us to not fritter the time away as for which of those five activities to do, or what combination of them. That just comes down to what you need at that point in your writing. If you’re writing a first draft, writing forward is definitely your top priority. If you’re generating ideas, you may spend a little more time on general craft practice and studying craft books. If you’re revising, there is that work, of course, but you may also want to study a mentor text or craft books for specific elements that you’re trying to strengthen in your book. I hope that this information empowers you to make intentional decisions about your writing practice so that you are able to write your novel and strengthen your skills as a writer in a way that is efficient and maximizes the time that you have for it. So go forth armed with this information and design a writing practice that works for you. If you like this video and know somebody else who might benefit from it, please subscribe and share. Thank you so much. Happy writing.